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South Florida Husband’s Notice of Dismissal Helps Him Escape $50K-Per-Month Alimony Obligation

justice clerkIn a high-asset divorce case in Florida, there are lots of efforts that go into determining the outcome. There’s collecting and developing relevant factual evidence that demonstrates the strength of your arguments. There is also knowledge of procedural rules and an understanding of how to use them to your most beneficial effect. In a recent Miami case, a husband’s well-timed dismissal motion proved critical in allowing him to avoid the imposition of a substantial alimony obligation.

The case began with the wife filing a divorce petition after eight years of marriage. A month later, the husband filed a counter-petition with the trial court. By July, the wife had decided to dismiss her petition. In cases such as these, an original petitioner’s voluntary dismissal doesn’t wipe out a counter-petition, so the husband’s filing remained active.

At first, the wife did nothing, and the husband obtained a default judgment against her. The law allows parties in some situations to seek an order setting aside the default judgment, which is what the wife later did in this case. On the day before the date of the hearing on the wife’s request to set aside the default, the husband made his own tactical decision:  he dismissed his counter-petition.

Despite the husband’s notice of dismissal, the trial court went ahead with the Sept. 5, 2014 hearing. The court lifted the default and later entered an order in favor of the wife. That order determined that the husband owed the wife a retroactive alimony payment of $668,000, as well as temporary alimony going forward in the amount of $50,000 per month.

The husband appealed this ruling, and he won. The appeals court explained that, when the husband filed his notice of dismissal on the eve of the Sept. 5 hearing, his filing effectively ended the case. The only filing by the wife that was actively before the court was her request to lift the default judgment. That request became moot when the husband filed his notice of dismissal. When the husband dismissed the case on Sept. 4, that ended the trial court’s jurisdiction over the dispute and made any orders coming after Sept. 4 (including the alimony order) void.

The appeals court noted that, in other cases, a petitioner’s notice of dismissal was not good enough to end those cases. The difference in this case was the existence of the default judgment. With a default judgment actively in place in this dispute, the husband’s notice of dismissal was a highly effective method for accomplishing what he wanted.

In a high-asset divorce case, it isn’t enough to know the facts of your case or even to have copious proof that supports your positions. It is also vital to know the law, the rules of procedure, and how to use them effectively. The skilled Florida divorce attorneys at Stok Folk + Kon have spent many years representing spouses throughout the divorce process, and we are equipped to help you with your case.

Contact us online or by calling (305) 935-4440 to schedule your consultation.

More blog posts:

High-Income Parents and Child Support in Florida, Florida Business Lawyers Blog, Dec. 2, 2016

Negative-Value Businesses and Your Florida Divorce, Florida Business Lawyers Blog, Sept. 8, 2016

Photo credit: Tahoe Justice Court